Moore wrote over a dozen WildC.A.T.S stories between 1995 and 1998. This chapter in Moore's career would, in retrospect, become emblematic more of the excesses of the 1990s than of the originality and iconoclasm for which Moore's best work is known.
WildC.A.T.S and the 1990s Comic-Book Boom
WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #1, created by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee, was published in 1992 by Image Comics. Image had found quick success in trying to break free of the dominance of Marvel and DC in superhero comics, with such titles as Todd McFarlane's Spawn, and WildC.A.T.S was another immediate hit.
WildC.A.T.S featured a team of super-powered heroes who were fighting a centuries-long war with aliens on Earth. They, along with other Lee-Choi creations Stormwatch, Deathblow, and Gen13, became part of the so-called Wildstorm Universe.
Starting with WildC.A.T.S #21 (1995), Alan Moore wrote a long story arc for WildStorm's flagship title. Moore tried to flesh out some of the possibilities of the WildC.A.T.S concept, much as he had ten years earlier when he had revolutionized Swamp Thing for DC.
In Moore's arc, the WildC.A.T.S return to their home planet of Khera, only to find that their war with the Daemonites has been over for years. The WildC.A.T.S discover that Khera isn't as idyllic as they had remembered, and they soon become pawns for rival political factions.
Meanwhile, a new WildC.A.T.S team is put together to fight crime on Earth. As the original WildC.A.T.S come home disillusioned, they and the others are caught up in a crime war, which, it turns out, has been manipulated by one of the new WildC.A.T.S' recruits.
Moore's stories were first collected in two volumes, WildC.A.T.S: Homecoming and WildC.A.T.S: Gang War in 1998 and 1999. In 2007, DC/Wildstorm released a trade paperback of the entire 15-issue WildC.A.T.S arc, called Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S.
The Ironies of Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S
Unfortunately, Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S isn't too far removed from the typical superhero comics of the 1980s and 1990s. There are some meta-comics touches, such as when WildC.A.T.S members say they should "have a crossover" with other heroes, instead of a "team-up." But such verbal winks only serve to highlight the fact that the stories feature a glut of thinly-developed characters and gratuitous battles.
Also, Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S suffers from not having consistent art teams from issue to issue, despite work from such luminaries as Kevin Nowlan and Jim Lee himself.
Soon after the Alan Moore arc, WildC.A.T.S and other properties of the Wildstorm Universe were sold to DC Comics – giving the lie to the notion that the titles represented a significant break from the corporate-controlled likes of Superman or The X-Men.
And as the comics boom of the 1990s collapsed, WildC.A.T.S was one of the franchises which nearly faded away. (Though the title was resuscitated more than once in the 2000s, most recently in a new series running since 2008.)
Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S offers comics fans a chance to see one of Image Comics' early hits in a comprehensive package. But even with help from one of comics' most famous writers, the collection shows why the WildC.A.T.S concept had difficulty enduring.
For more on Moore's recent work, see this review of Alan Moore's Neonomicon.